“The Italian Section [of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition] is largely an exposition of the accepted. academic school of art, with here and there something that hints of more modern tendencies, such as the vivid, wine colored figures of Enrico Lionne, which are like burning jewels . . .”
– J. Nilsen Laurvik, “Notes on the Foreign Paintings,” Art and Progress 6.10 (August 1915), p. 357
Private Collection, California
Pig’n Whistle Corporation, Los Angeles
Jules Brasner, New York, 1972-73
Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1980
San Francisco, California, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915, no. 62 (gold medal for Italian Paintings)
Los Angeles, California, Loan Exhibition of International Art, Los Angeles Art Association, 1937, no. 161
New York, Vance Jordan Fine Art, Inc., Gallery Selections, n.d., p. 71, illus.
In 1915, just six years before his death, Enrico Lionne exhibited two paintings at the prestigious Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, earning the gold medal for the Italian Section. Critics and audiences alike felt that one work in particular, Red Roses, summarized the innovative techniques that Lionne had been developing during the course of his career, and demonstrated the highest achievements of Italy’s unique (and controversial) brand of Divisionism, the prevailing modern art movement at the time. “In the ranks of these much-berated practitioners of ‘divisionism’ in Italy,” wrote one reviewer, “none maintains a more consistent or promising attitude than Enrico Lionne, whose Red Roses . . . [gives] . . . a fair idea of his luminous, variegated art that confirms the influence of the French ideas in art in Italy no less than elsewhere,” (Catalogue de Luxe of the Department of Fine Arts Panama-Pacific International Exposition, eds. John E. D. Trask and J. Nilsen Laurvik, vol. I, San Francisco: Paul Elder and Co., 1915, pp. 93-4).
Like their more popular French Neo-Impressionist counterparts, the Italian Divisionists were fascinated by optics and the physics of light. The technique they developed, however, largely informed by Modern Chromatics by O. N. Rood (which had been translated into Italian in 1882), employed a fluctuating dot- and -stroke application of spectral colors, reminiscent of threads or filaments, rather than the more regularly-sized dots and dashes of Seurat, Pissarro, or Signac. This approach was combined with a firm belief that the union of art and science would advance painting in Italy, allowing it to hold meaning within the modern age. In Rome, the city in which Lionne lived and worked, the artists’ focus was on local daily life and “realistic” subjects, devoid of the symbolic embellishments of the Lombard and Piedmontese schools. Lionne’s own paintings demonstrate this focus, while also introducing new, more decorative themes to Italian Divisionism’s repertoire – elegantly clad figures and flowers among them. (These subjects, popular with the public, were called “sensuous colour invocations” by one critic, suggesting their nearly abstract effect.) 
Red Roses, painted and exhibited in 1915, is part of what appears to be a series of works that combines female figures and flowers in a single, tightly-focused view. In 1913, Lionne painted Violette (Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Roma), and, in 1919, L’attesa (Galleria d’Arte Moderna Gianonni, Novara). In each of these three pictures, the artist presents a single female, strikingly but casually posed. Her hands are elegantly clasped, and her dark clothing – the women each wear voluminous long-sleeved dresses trimmed with fur or silk and enormous broad-brimmed hats - provides a dramatic contrast with the abundance of vividly colored yellow, pink, or red flowers that surround her. The distinctive, brilliant blue eyes of the women and their similarly sinuous forms suggest that this was in fact a favorite model of Lionne’s, and a muse he felt compelled to repeat.
This note was written by Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D.
 The 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition was an international fair held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. When the festival closed in December 1915, it had attracted almost 19 million visitors, 250,000 of those on the first few days.
 Christian Brinton, Impressions of the Art at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, New York, 1916, p. 176.